Four stars is it? Yes, and I’d imagine many people will not share my fondness for this film. As you come to read Spooool’s reviews you begin to see what films we like and while we keep open minds as much as possible we certainly have our interests. Anything falling into a superhero or blockbuster category and Nigel will probably give it five stars. I on the other hand have a definite fondness for love stories be they teen movies from the 80’s, caper comedies from the 40s and 50s or more recently rom-coms. We go to the cinema to escape, dream and fantasise and no one does love like the movies. Now it still has to be good as any old nonsense won’t do, you have to believe in the characters, warm to them and be gripped by what lies in store. Most of all you have to leave your big cynical pessimistic head at the door.
So on with the review; we’re all going to die. Seeking a friend for the end of the world is the other side to 1998’s Armageddon, the mission to save the Earth from an asteroid strike has failed and we now have three weeks to live. Dodge’s (Steve Carell) wife promptly ups sticks and leaves, meaning for the first few days he keeps carrying out his job as an insurance broker. This leads to some of the darker humour and sets it apart from your standard romantic comedy. While wallowing in boredom, Dodge is visited by Penny (Keira Knightley) who is trying to escape break up sex with her ex-boyfriend played by the OC’s Adam Brody. This is the beginning of their unlikely adventure as Dodge sets off to find the true love of his life (his high school sweetheart) and Penny aims to get on a plane to see her beloved family one last time.
An obvious enough criticism of Knightley and Carell is that they are playing their standard roles. Knightley the kooky girl next door and Carell the poignantly melancholic lovable fool. This is a tad harsh as they play the characters brilliantly and despite all their flaws and ticks, you genuinely relate to their fears and worries about the impending end. Carell’s performance is reminiscent of the often overlooked Dan in Real Life, while Knightley has to work hard to cast of the she’s just a pretty face comments.
When it comes to films concerning love or finding “the one”, it’s incredibly hard not to be cliched or dismiss it all with cynical ire. It is let slide with teen films as you can simply go “ah they’re just kids, sure what do they know”. Making it even harder to accomplish the feat with “grown up” actors. Naturally such conversations arise in Seeking a friend but are handled well, the conversation Penny has about her love of vinyl is one every enthusiast has had no matter how hipsterish it makes you sound.
First time director Lorene Scafaria has got the pacing and execution pitch perfect with the film never lulling but rather finding its feet, culminating in a beautifully heartbreaking scene. The very notion of the film itself whereby there is no get out of jail free card adds such intensity. The casting of Carell and Knightley as the two leads would have seemed bonkers years ago but each is confident in their own skills to bring a weighty realism to the piece.
So I’ll make no bones about it I’m predisposed to films of this nature being a big girls blouse or a sap as my friend reminds me more often than not. If you want an antidote to the spate of action super duper movies you’d be hard pressed to find something better than this heart on its sleeve adventure story.
USA / Directed By: Lorene Scafaria / Written By: Lorene Scafaria / Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Melanie Lynskey / 101min / Comedy, Drama / Release: 22 June 2012 (US/Canada), 13 July 2012 (UK/Ireland)